MEPS 324:271-279 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps324271

Seabird associations with mesoscale eddies: the subtropical Indian Ocean

K. David Hyrenbach1,5,*, Richard R. Veit2, Henri Weimerskirch3, George L. Hunt Jr.4,5

1Duke University Marine Laboratory, 135 Duke Marine Lab. Rd., Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
2Biology Department, CSI-CUNY, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NewYork 10314, USA 3Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Centre Nationale Research Scientifique, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
4Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, USA
5School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Box 355020, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We investigated seabird–eddy associations in subtropical waters of the southern Indian Ocean during a summer (January) cruise from Amsterdam Island to Western Australia. To determine habitat associations and to enable predictions about foraging strategies, we related the distributions of satellite altimetry data (sea surface height anomalies) to the 3 most abundant taxa in the study area: terns (sooty Sterna fuscata and bridled S. anaethetus) and shearwaters (wedge-tailed Puffinus pacificus) were significantly more common and numerous within convergence zones. However, a step-wise logistic regression model revealed that these seabirds were more strongly associated with other habitat variables, including the distance to breeding colonies and warm sea surface temperature conditions. Great-winged petrels Pterodroma macroptera were widely scattered and did not show associations with convergences or divergences. These contrasting results highlight the need to consider smaller-scale hydrographic features, such as frontal systems, when quantifying seabird associations with mesoscale eddies. Large-scale patterns of ocean circulation and mesoscale variability also seem to play a critical role in determining the extent of seabird–eddy associations. In contrast with previous studies, which have focused on dynamic frontal regions and energetic current systems, we surveyed a region of weak mesoscale variability north of the Subtropical Convergence zone.


KEY WORDS: Altimetry · Indian Ocean · Mesoscale eddies · Remote sensing · Seabirds · Sea surface height anomalies


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